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Posts Tagged ‘suicide prevention’

8 Ways to Recognize Suicide Prevention Week

Suicide Prevention Week will be here soon, recognized from September 7th – 13th with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th. There are lots of ways that crisis centers or the general public can recognize this upcoming event.

Join an Out of the Darkness Walk near you. These walks help raise awareness as well as money for research and education. During the month of September, particularly during suicide prevention Week, dozens of these walks will be held. Find one near you and register today.

Donate to a suicide prevention service in your area. You can donate to organizations that focus on research or education, though we humbly suggest you consider donating to a helpline that provides direct help and suicide prevention to those in need. Whether you’re in Canada, the US, or another country, there are suicide prevention lines near you that would greatly appreciate your donation and will put it to excellent use in directly preventing suicide in your community.

Volunteer for a suicide prevention service. These services are always looking for qualified volunteers to answer phones, help with fundraising efforts, and more. Suicide prevention month is a great time to start the application process. Suicide prevention centers could also run volunteer recruitment campaigns to coincide with the heightened awareness and attention.

Fundraise for your local suicide prevention helpline. Much like volunteer recruitment, the increased attention and awareness of suicide prevention will mean that many people will be compelled to do something to help the cause, and so your message and request for support will resonate with your community.

Educate yourself on the topic of suicide. Did you know that suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in Canada and 10th in the United States, or that the elderly are at the highest risk of suicide? By learning the notable statistics, risk factors, warning signs, and myths and facts about suicide, you’ll be empowered to do more and share that knowledge with others.

Receive training on how to help others who are suicidal. Suicide prevention is everyone’s business and everyone’s responsibility. We’re all capable of doing something to prevent it. Trainings like ASIST, safeTALK, QPR, and Mental Health First Aid, and training from the Suicide Prevention Resource Centerare some examples.

Spread the word with social media. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or all of the above, post information in support of suicide awareness and prevention. Try sharing some of those facts you learned, or share a personal story about how suicide has touched your life, or the life of someone you care about. Discussing suicide goes a long way in reducing stigma and bringing the issue out into the open where it belongs! If you run a helpline, you can ramp up your social media presence as well by sharing facts about your helpline, success stories, requests for support, suicide myths vs. facts, etc.

Alert the media and use your expertise or experience as a helpline agency to do a story on suicide prevention in your community and how people can be helped by contacting you. Agencies that have texting and live chat services always have a great angle for contacting the media to do a story on how those struggling with suicidal thoughts can use those services if they don’t want to call on the phone.

Whether you take one of these actions, or do something different, it’s important to recognize suicide prevention week. Your actions will show others that you care about raising awareness of suicide, and preventing it.

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A message on the one year anniversary of Robin Williams’ death

One year ago today the world lost a beloved actor, comedian, and humanitarian to suicide. For many people this was the first time suicide touched their life, and for others it was a reminder of painful losses or struggles they personally experienced in their own lives. Universally Robin Williams’ death ignited a conversation about suicide, recovery from substance abuse, depression, and other mental illnesses. Many helplines reported increased call volume for weeks and months following his death.

The American Association of Suicidology released a statement that includes some helpful information. We encourage you to take a look by visiting their Facebook post about this anniversary.

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Using iCarol’s Built-in Suicide Risk Assessment Tools

When your volunteers are working with a help-seeker either on the phone, in-person, or online, there may come a time where assessing that person’s risk for suicide becomes necessary. Several years ago the Lifeline developed suicide risk assessment standards based on industry research. We then took these standards into consideration and developed a tool for use in iCarol that guides your volunteers and staff through that assessment process. Like other forms in iCarol, this guide can be customized to your needs.

The assessment begins with three basic and direct questions that gauge whether the person is thinking of suicide today, if they’ve thought about suicide very recently, and whether they have ever attempted to kill themselves.

three questions

Instructions guide the worker to proceed if any of the questions receive a ‘Yes’ answer. A fourth question asking about suicide in progress can help determine imminent risk, and our ‘Help tip’ reveals important questions to help quickly clarify this risk and begin rescue if that is part of your helpline’s policies.

Suicide In Progress Help

Four areas influencing risk are explored: Desire, Capability, Intent, and Buffers and Connectedness. Each section contains a number of topics, each with a ‘Help tip’ providing suggestions on the types of questions or statements that could be worked into the conversation. This can help your staff build rapport with the client and allows the interaction to continue naturally, rather than feeling like a questionnaire.

Exploring risk

As they talk with the client, they can select any of three options for each area which best captures where the client is for that particular topic. As these options are selected, our tool weights these answers and provides a measurement that helps gauge the overall level of risk.

Weighted risk gauge

Next, your worker can discuss and record the client’s reasons for living and reasons for dying. This can be a compelling tool for discussion and an important piece of the conversation. When someone is at risk for suicide, finding and focusing on reasons for living as compared to their reasons for dying can be a powerful exercise.

Reasons for living and dying

Finally, your worker can record the level of risk as determined through their discussion with the client or from the measurement tool. A series of instructions can help guide them towards resolution, referral, and other outcomes.

Again, because our forms are customizable to your own practices, this guide can be used exactly as delivered or you can make your own adjustments and edits if needed.

Providing a safe place for open, honest discussion about suicide, free of judgment, is the cornerstone of any crisis service. This powerful risk assessment tool will help your volunteers and staff feel supported, equipped, and confident when working with callers at risk for suicide, all while helping your center conform with industry standards.

Want to know more about our Suicide Risk Assessment tools, or want to enable them in your system? Please , or existing users can open a support case.

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15 iCarol Messaging Tools That Improve Your Crisis Intervention Service

When it’s time to pick a Live Chat or Texting platform for your helpline, you’ve got a lot to consider. Your crisis intervention service needs tools that will help you meet grant requirements, comply with accreditations and certifications, and report on the data collected during client interactions. But most important of all, you need to be a source of online emotional support for your visitors and provide excellent service to them.

You provide a vital service to your community, and a generic, out-of-the-box solution just won’t cut it. Here are 15 functions of iCarol Messaging that will actually help improve your suicide prevention or crisis intervention service.

ShiftsTotal control of availability – With iCarol messaging you have complete control over when your text or chat service is online and available, using the integrated Shift Scheduling tool right within iCarol. If using Live Chat, visitors to your website will only see you as Online if you have an active shift set up with workers assigned. Similar with texting, if a shift is not set up or no one is assigned to that shift, a visitor who texts in will get a friendly message letting them know your service is currently offline, and it can advise them of when you’re next available.

Bonus – Experiencing a surge of phone calls due to a local event, crisis, or other emergent situation, and need your workers to turn their attention to those calls? Or perhaps your queue of online help-seekers is full and your specialists need time to catch up before inviting more visitors in. You can take your service offline temporarily with the click of a button so your workers can address those messages. You can quickly turn your messaging services back on when you’re ready to open up the queue again.

Collect info up front – Registration and Pre-chat surveys let you collect the necessary data at the start of the chat, and straight from the visitor themselves. You can keep it simple, like asking for basic demographic information, or ask questions like, “What’s your main concern today?” or “How upset are you?” with a list of available options. These questions are highly customizable, so you can collect whatever information you need. This data will be presented to your counselors, helping prepare them for the conversation and giving them valuable insight on how to best serve the help seeker.

Furthermore, the answers to these pre-chat survey questions can have values applied to them, unbeknownst to the visitor, that can flag a visitor as being potentially high risk, based on how they answer certain questions or as a calculation of the entirety of their answers. This risk level will be displayed as the visitor enters your queue, helping your volunteers and staff do necessary triage, assign higher risk chats to more experienced counselors, or provide with quality assurance.

Bonus – Need to limit your interactions to visitors in a certain geographic area? We’ve got you covered. If you ask visitors their zip code or postal code during Registration and a Pre-chat survey, iCarol will automatically screen for geographic area, allowing only those in your defined area to participate. Visitors from outside the area will get a friendly list of alternate sources of help.

Vols-StaffSupport for Volunteers and Staff – Your Chat Specialists could face some challenging chats. iCarol offers tools that ensure your workers can rely on peers and supervisors for support when needed. Right from within the conversation window a counselor can ask for help from their direct supervisor. Workers can also send an email or text message to any colleague or supervisor, without ever leaving iCarol. Finally, our Internal Chat tool is a way for people signed in to iCarol to type quick messages to one another. Chat Specialists could ask a colleague for advice on appropriate referrals or tips on how to help a visitor. As a Helpline Director you and other supervisors could be available for consultation while you’re in the call center, or you could sign in from your home computer to check in with workers on shifts occurring after you’ve already left the office for the day.

Resource and Referral – It’s common during conversations, whether they’re over the phone or through live chat or text, that a help seeker may need services beyond what your helpline offers. Food pantries, shelter, financial assistance, or professional counseling are just a few examples. Every iCarol system includes a resource database that you can populate with all the information about your own local community resources. You can search this database of services while chatting with a visitor and deliver those referrals right within their messaging window, so they can get any further help they may need. Of course, the system retains the statistics about these referrals for reporting later on.

SearchSilent Monitoring – Supervisors can also navigate to the chat queue and review the active messages going on between their counselors and the visitors. Further, they can look in on those individual conversations to provide help or quality assurance.

Assess Risk – With access to suicide risk assessment tools (developed by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) your specialists have tools to help guide them through any necessary suicide risk assessment. This includes suggestions for talking points or questions to pose to the visitor or work into the conversation, with possible answers for your chat specialist to mark. As those areas are answered, a measurement is provided that helps guide the counselor as to the level of risk. Nothing replaces the experience and gut instinct of your trained specialists, but this tool provides a quantitative measurement to help guide them.

Exclamation Mark copyTools for rescue – One of the biggest points of apprehension that we hear about concerning Online Emotional Support concerns the ability to send emergency personnel to help-seekers in imminent danger. The anonymity that has so many flocking to this mode of support brings with it some challenges when it comes to imminent danger situations. Statistically speaking, rescue is probably a rare occurrence at most centers when you think about just how many calls about suicide your center answers. We all know that what your callers tend to need most when they’re considering suicide is empathetic, non-judgmental listening. Most people just need to express their feelings to someone who won’t become uncomfortable or shut down the conversation. Having a safe place to talk about their feelings is hugely helpful.

But there are those instances where someone may be in danger and in need of intervention. If you’ve determined a visitor is in need of emergency assistance, best practices suggest that it’s best to engage the help-seeker and try to get them to participate in their own rescue by providing that critical location information. But if they will not, iCarol will make available to your worker the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and IP Address which can be turned over to law enforcement. This information can typically be used by the authorities who will work with that ISP to determine where the user of that IP Address is physically located. With clients who are texting you, at your option you can access their full phone number for use in an emergency.

As your center plans to add Online Emotional Support to your services, it’s a good idea to contact local law enforcement and start to explore how they might help your center if these situations arise. And if your center does not have a need for this information or if having access to an ISP or IP Address or full phone number of a visitor stands in contention with your policies about confidentiality and privacy, we’ll be happy to remove these tools from your messaging system.

Data ManagementData Input – Once an interaction ends, counselors fill out a call report form to capture important data. Many things on this form are already filled out automatically: Start and end time of interaction, any information entered by the visitor before and after the interaction, the full, time-stamped transcript, and the referrals you’ve made. There’s ample opportunity for further data collection as well, such as issues discussed, risk assessment information, and more. In short, the call report form contains all information you have about the interaction in one convenient place. All of this can be reported on in the Statistics area of iCarol and/or via Call Report Exports to be analyzed in an external program like Microsoft Access or Excel.

Visitor Feedback – Remember the pre-chat survey? You can add on a post-chat counterpart, and use it to collect your visitor’s feedback and feelings about the service you provided, self-assessment following the chat, or anything else you’d like them to share with you.

Feedback and Quality Assurance – One aspect of your chat reporting form will be the chat transcript. That’s right, whether the interaction was via text message or live chat, the full time-stamped transcript of that interaction will become a part of your report form. This comes in extra handy when it comes time for supervisors to review interactions and give feedback. You can give very specific guidance to your workers using these transcripts, pointing out specific moments in the conversation where they really connected with what the visitor was saying, or perhaps where an opportunity was missed. Further, these transcripts can make for excellent training tools for new volunteers who are learning how to provide Online Emotional Support.

helpline flowFollow-up – There are many reasons you may be re-engaging with a client once the initial interaction has ended. Safety planning and ongoing contact with support systems are extremely important for people who are having thoughts of suicide. You may also want to see if the referrals a caller was given were able to help them, or use a follow-up call or text as an opportunity to conduct a satisfaction or quality assurance survey. If a person reaches your service via Text message, they may want to receive their “call back” this way as well. With our Follow-up activity you can follow-up via phone call or text message. Our handy character counter will even help you keep that message under the limit so that your content can be sent in one single text message.

Pie chart pointing to dollar signReports for your CEO or funders – We offer a robust set of statistical tools offering many charts and graphs at your disposal, along with more advanced exporting if you’d like to import your data into external programs for further analysis. Reports on the number of interactions your center is handling, pie charts showing the location, demographic, or issues/needs data, are just a few examples of the types of reports you could run. And practically anything you collect on the call reporting form can also be turned into a Call Content Filter. So run that chart showing the number of messaging interactions that were logged in your system last month, and using the filters you can determine how many of those came from Males between the ages of 40 and 60 who messaged you about an Addiction, if you collect that data. What you can report on is limited only in what you choose to collect on your highly customizable call reporting form.

Collaborating w partnersLoad balancing and collaboration – Say you want to provide your chat service 24 hours a day, but only have the staff to provide this service for some of that time. Or, maybe your center is part of a network of centers within a state or region that would like to come together to offer Online Emotional Support, and want to share responsibility for offering that service. There are several options where, using iCarol, you can partner, contract, and have chats routed according to the partnerships you’ve formed. If you haven’t found a partner, we can help connect you with centers who you may be able to build that relationship with.

Data SecurityWhat’s Private Stays Private – Text and Instant Message conversations often deal with sensitive subjects. Data stored in iCarol, including messaging data, is encrypted at a level used by financial institutions, so rest assured your data is secure. Our exclusive focus working with non-profit help centers, crisis centers, and information centers assures our understanding of your needs in this area. Be aware, however, that text messages travel over telephony provider networks, and that part of the interaction is out of any text service provider’s control, including iCarol.

Grow and Expand your service – Perhaps you want to set up a new text or chat service aimed specifically at teens. Using “Portals” iCarol can separate these new programs from the rest of your messaging platform. This program might have its own hours of operation, and you need to collect different data for that program than you would for your base chat/text service, all of which is possible now that you’ve separated this service out via Portals.

At iCarol we pride ourselves on being a choice solution for non-profit helplines, due in part to our vast experience and intimate knowledge of the helpline industry, and our Messaging capabilities follow those same principles. To learn more about using iCarol to provide Online Emotional Support, current iCarol users can check out the tutorial videos found in the “Help” section of your iCarol system, and open a case to ask questions or start a trial. Everyone is welcome to join us for a webinar on Messaging to learn more, too!

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New Tools for Finding Follow-ups and Surveys Due

We understand how important the follow-up process is at your helpline. There are many different reasons to follow-up with a help seeker after your initial conversation has ended. Safety planning and ongoing contact with support systems are extremely important for people who are having thoughts of suicide. Or perhaps you’d like to see if the referrals a caller was given were able to help them. Many centers also use a follow-up call as an opportunity to conduct a satisfaction or quality assurance survey.

helpline flowWhatever reason you are following up with a client, our follow-up activity within a call report form makes it easy to schedule these follow-ups. You can collect the important information you’ll need to conduct the follow-up call, not just the person’s name and phone number but important information to preserve confidentiality, like knowing whether or not it’s okay to leave a voicemail, or to say where you’re calling from if a third party answers the phone. Your volunteers can even sign up for an email notification to tell them a follow-up call has been scheduled and assigned to them. There’s also a handy “inbox” on the main calls page where they can quickly navigate to the list of follow-ups that are scheduled.

With our next release we’ll be launching improvements to the pages that list Follow-ups and Surveys due. Those pages, as always, are accessed from the Calls menu. Here are highlights of the changes, which you’ll see soon:

  • New arrows on the top bar let you change the sort order of each column: call report form number, due date, client name, phone worker, assigned to, and subject.
  • To make the date column sortable, that’s now in YYYY/MM/DD format.
  • A new search box lets you more quickly find the call reports you need by typing in a search term.
  • You can still reassign followups, but it looks a little different — the pulldown is gone. Instead, please just click on the “assigned to” name, and then you’ll see the list of names from which you can choose.

We hope this enhancement helps save time in your daily work; making it so you can quickly and efficiently find the information you need when conducting follow-up interactions.

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“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” Nominated for an Academy Award

Veteran's HelplinesThe HBO Documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” first aired on HBO over a year ago, and at the Academy Award Nominations on Thursday morning, they announced that the film was among the nominees for Best Short Subject Documentary! Congrats to the filmmakers for being nominated for Hollywood’s most prestigious award.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, the film is definitely worth checking out. It’s an intimate look at suicide prevention hotline work. The documentary highlights the work of the call center in Canadaigua, NY that answers the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone line operated specifically for veterans at risk of suicide. The documentary features harrowing footage of crisis responders working to find anonymous callers in imminent danger, and the quiet and touching moments between the empathetic workers who listen without judgment and the veterans reaching out for help. It’s available for purchase and rent, or HBO subscribers can watch via HBO GO.

This is a truly well-made film that shines a light on the hard work of suicide prevention lines, and the struggles faced by members of the military. I know I’ll be cheering it on when I’m watching the Oscars this February.

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Why we should work to debunk the myth about suicide and the holidays

I distinctly remember the first time I learned the truth about a common myth related to suicide. It was nearly 14 years ago, and I was sitting with my fellow would-be hotline volunteers in our training class, ready to tackle the lesson we were all most nervous about: Suicide. We filled out a pre-test, designed to gauge our base knowledge about the topic, and see what sorts of preconceptions we were bringing with us to our volunteer experience. The true or false quiz seemed simple enough to me at the time, a college junior who had been through her share of advanced psychology classes and was about a year from graduation, in spite of those classes having provided very little mention of suicide. I arrived at one that gave me pause. “True or False: The suicide rate increases around the holidays.”

Hmmm…

I was a little stumped. “Gosh…I feel like I hear a lot about suicide during the holiday season,” I thought to myself. “And I know I’ve heard that statistic…somewhere. And hey, what time of year is more stressful for people than that whole period between Thanksgiving and the New Year? It makes sense. True.” My pencil checked the box.

Well (spoiler alert!) I was wrong. We all listened intently to the correct answers and found that much of what we thought was true about suicide was, in fact, false. And I remember feeling almost angry about this, like why was this whole topic so taboo, so secretive, that complete fallacies could be out there in the universe parading around as truths all these years. But that particular myth about the holidays was really stuck in my craw.

So stuck, in fact, that it’s become a running joke between me and my husband because he’s been witness to my missionary-like commitment to setting the record straight. I yell at the TV when I see a show reinforcing the myth. We’d be at a party and someone would find out where I worked and inevitably I’d get lots of questions about suicide, mental health, and other topics. Without a doubt someone would ask if it’s true, or make a comment about how more suicides happen around the holidays. My eyes would widen (another potential convert to help spread my gospel of truth!) as I got to explain (my husband might prefer the term “lecture”) that this was false, and that December can actually be a month where there are fewer suicides, but that springtime does seem to be a time where we lose more people to suicide than other times of year.

In addition to the fact that falsehoods in general just bug me, something about this one would set me over the edge, and I think it’s because I feel it’s actually a bit dangerous to have myths such as this one circulating.

Look, I’m glad that there are articles about suicide this time of year, any time of year for that matter, but too many of them use the myth as a means to drive traffic to their site or increase readership without clearly and categorically setting the record straight that there’s really no relationship between suicide and the holiday season. They also tend to leave out important information about prevention, according to a report by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

What ends up happening is that people continue to feel there is a relationship (look at all these articles that come out about suicide in December, it must be true!) and I think, from that, two things happen.

First, attention to the topic of suicide is heightened at a time of year when incidents are typically at their lowest. Again, awareness is a good thing anytime, but where are all these articles during the rest of the year, particularly in springtime through summer when the incidents of suicide actually do increase? We end up with an abundance of articles and material when the myth creates a demand for content yet incidents are at their lowest, and a lack of attention when they’re at their highest in the spring and the public’s heightened awareness and knowledge of prevention methods could especially be put to good use.

Second, I think the perpetration of this myth promotes a sort of romanticism of, or glamorizes the idea of a holiday suicide. While you cannot put the thought of suicide in someone’s head by simply talking about it (another myth we frequently try to squash), irresponsible reporting of suicide in the media can contribute to the contagion phenomenon, which is very real. This idea that the holidays are a “good” time or a normal time to complete one’s suicide plan, or that a person “should” feel extra depressed, lonely, and susceptible to their thoughts of suicide this time of year can put someone already contemplating suicide in an especially vulnerable place.

It’s true that the holidays can be a stressful time of year. For someone who is already lonely, depressed, or otherwise suffering it can be a tough time. But there’s no evidence to suggest that this results in more people ending their own life around the holidays. I hope everyone will join me in what’s become a personal crusade to stop this myth in its tracks, and replace it with more productive information and education towards suicide prevention all year round.

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“It’s a Wonderful Life” As Viewed by the Crisis Worker

Whether you pop in the DVD or catch one of the many showings on television this season, the Frank Capra classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” tops many must-watch lists for holiday viewing. But for those of you who work in crisis and suicide prevention we suspect you view this film through a unique lens…

You know you’re a Crisis Worker watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” if…

  • You comment on how the movie perpetuates the myth that suicide rates go up at Christmastime

  • You’re jealous that Clarence got to see a factual recap of George’s life before talking to him and think about how much that would help you respond to callers

  • You know George’s circumstances aren’t nearly as bad as many of the people you’ve talked to, and yet you still empathize with him and don’t judge him for feeling suicidal

  • You can list all the warning signs that George is giving, and yell at the other characters for not picking up on them

  • Even better, you wish someone would talk to George about his behavior and ask him directly if he was thinking of suicide

  • You praise Mary for calling a family member to talk about how George was behaving, and not keeping his behavior a secret

  • It reminds you of all the people you’ve spoken to that thought their suicide would be what’s best for their family

  • You note that George chose a very high lethality method

  • You wish Clarence would spend more time letting George tell him how he’s feeling and what has him thinking about suicide, instead of shutting him down and telling George he shouldn’t say such things

  • You’re relieved when George finds his reasons for living

  • You’re thankful for the happy ending, but you know that it’s rarely wrapped up so easily

  • You’re reminded of why you do the work you do

Have you had any of these thoughts while watching this classic film? Got any other thoughts to add? We’d love to hear from you, leave us a comment!

And while you may not have wings, we know the countless individuals touched by your caring voices consider you all guardian angels. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to saving lives, during the holidays and all year round.

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